To Be Free, You Have To Forgive
Preparing for Rosh Hashanah & Yom Kippur
In 2011, in advance of Rosh Hashanah, the Ten Days of Repentance and Yom Kippur 5772, the Chief Rabbi Lord Sacks recorded a series of ten short videos, each reflecting on a particular theme or prayer pertinent to this special and spiritual period in the Jewish calendar.
These timeless messages are equally applicable as we enter any new year.
Chamol al ma’asecha. Have compassion on your works. Forgive. That’s what we say on Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, and the days between. But it cuts both ways. We can’t ask God to forgive us if we don’t forgive others.
We have to forgive those who’ve offended us, however hard it is, because life is too short to feel resentment. Lo tikkom velo titor, says the Torah. Don’t bear a grudge and don’t take revenge.
At the end of his life, Moses said to the Israelites, “Don’t despise an Egyptian, because you were strangers in his land.” Strangers in his land? They persecuted the Israelites, enslaved them, tried to kill half their children. Don’t despise them? They were despicable. But what Moses was saying was: if you continue to hate, you will still be slaves: slaves to the past and your resentment. If you want to be free you have to let go of hate.
And that’s still true. Our energies are too precious to waste on a past we can’t undo. No one can offend me without my permission, and I refuse to give bad people the victory of knowing I care about what they say or do. On these holy days, we have to let go of hate. We have to forgive. And we will then travel lighter through life, with less grief, more joy.